New congressional districts in judge's hands

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- As many Florida residents pour in for early voting, an important decision still looms: who will be on their ballot for Congress?

Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis called on lawmakers to fix congressional districts 5 and 10. He ruled they were drawn to favor Republicans.

Lawmakers returned to the drawing board altering seven districts, equaling 25 counties and about 400,000 voters.

On Wednesday, Judge Lewis held a hearing to decide the validity of a new congressional map from the legislature.

"We took very seriously the reasons that the court held it unconstitutional," said Senator Bill Galvano, R - Bradenton, who chaired the Senate Redistricting Committee.

A passionate lawyer for the plaintiffs, David King, says this new map doesn't fix the problem of favoring Republicans. So, they called on a Harvard University government professor and House Democratic leader Perry Thurston to testify and prove their point.

"We established before that the intent of the legislature was not to follow the constitutional amendments and that continues on."

With a new map, Judge Lewis must also decide if it will affect the current election dates or order a special election. Supervisors of elections from across the state, led by Jerry Holland of Duval County, presented Lewis with a plan that calls for a special election in 2015.

"I don't think he would've asked for that schedule if he was going to do something different. I think that would've been debated today," Holland said.

Judge Lewis didn't specify when he'll make a ruling, but acknowledged this decision is time sensitive and said he'll work quickly on it.


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